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Maryland House passes bill requiring paid sick leave

Brian Witte, Associated Press

Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, explains his vote on Friday, March 3, 2017 for a bill to require businesses with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick leave in Maryland. Clippinger sponsored the legislation, which passed the House of Delegates 88-51. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland businesses with 15 or more employees would be required to provide paid sick leave, under a measure passed Friday by the state House of Delegates.

The Democrat-controlled House voted 88-51 for the bill, largely along party lines, with 48 Republicans and three Democrats voting against it. The Senate is considering a similar bill.

"This legislation is about this body saying that we know that the burden of illness is never to be compounded by the burden of poverty," said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who is the bill's sponsor.

But opponents contend the bill goes too far and will hurt small businesses.

"I do hope that it comes back from the Senate in a more commonsense version that provides some balance for our small business employers, who have basically begged us: 'Please, don't put this burden on us. It's hard already,'" said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County.

Under the bill, businesses with 15 or more employees would have to provide up to seven paid sick days a year. Businesses with 14 or fewer employees would have to provide unpaid sick leave. Part-time employees would earn sick leave based on the number of hours they work.

The House passed a similar bill last year, but it stalled in the Senate. Supporters have been trying to pass the legislation for five years. This year, however, lawmakers have taken the issue up earlier in hopes of enabling the two chambers to work out differences before the session ends April 10.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed an alternative that would require employers with more than 50 employees to provide leave. Employers with fewer than 50 employees would be given tax relief incentives. Hogan proposed the alternative to ease requirements on small businesses.

"Governor Hogan supports and is proposing commonsense paid leave legislation that provides benefits to hundreds of thousands of Marylanders — without hurting our small businesses or killing jobs," said Amelia Chasse, Hogan's spokeswoman. "The legislative process is still underway and we encourage the Senate to adopt something much closer to the governor's commonsense proposal."

An analysis by the Maryland Center on Economic Policy estimated that the bill advancing in the legislature would expand paid sick leave to about 512,000 people who currently don't have it. The analysis estimated the governor's proposals would extend paid sick leave to 272,000 people.